For years, tribes in California and across the country have been kicking out members – sometimes over objections that those being “disenrolled” have legitimate claims to being part of the tribe. In most cases, the federal government can do nothing, and hasn’t tried.
That’s what makes the Sept. 22 federal district court ruling against the Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria so unusual. The appeals court ruling essentially told the tribe to let 22 members back in, or risk losing most federal benefits. The tribe has 60 days from the ruling to file an appeal.
But don’t expect the ruling to start a trend. The tribe had an unusual constitution which allows the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to withhold money if they believe the tribe is kicking people out without reason.